A collection of letter and prayer poems in which an Indigenous speaker engages with non-Indigenous famous Canadians.
D.A. Lockhart’s stunning and subversive fourth collection gives us the words, thoughts, and experiences of an Anishinaabe guy from Central Ontario and the manner in which he interacts with central aspects and icons of settler Canadian culture. Riffing off Richard Hugo’s 31 Letters and 13 Dreams, the work utilizes contemporary Indigenous poetics to carve out space for often ignored voices in dominant Canadian discourse (and in particular for a response to this dominance through the cultural background of an Indigenous person living on land that has been fundamentally changed by settler culture). The letter poems comprise a large portion of this collection and are each addressed to specific key public figures—from Sarah Polley to Pierre Berton, k.d. lang to Robertson Davies, Don Cherry to Emily Carr. The second portion of the pieces are prayer poems, which tenderly illustrate hybrid notions of faith that have developed in contemporary Indigenous societies in response to modern and historical realities of life in Canada. Together, these poems act as a lyric whole to push back against the dominant view of Canadian political and pop-culture history and offer a view of a decolonized nation.
Because free double-doubles… tease us like bureaucratic promises of medical coverage and housing not given to black mold and torn- off siding. Oh Lord, let us sing anew, in this pre-dawn light, a chorus that shall not repeat Please Play Again. (from “Roll Up the Rim Prayer”)
Rock-solid, rooted in native soil, Devil in the Woods is a collection of letters and prayers in the essentialist tradition of Richard Hugo, full of heart-felt grit and conviction. D.A. Lockhart conjures the world through a catalogue of vivid particulars and a cast of inimitable characters, from Edna Puskamoose, a locally famous Pow-Wow dancer, to James Bond, that internationally notorious “colonial trickster.” This is poetry that follows the “right crooked path” through “the medicine smoke of history.”